The Trees The Fork Maple Day8 - Glyph Rendering

Glyphs Rendering on Screen


Today I finally got some text drawing to the screen. This update is going to be quick as it is very late, but I will likely write a more full fledged summary soon once I can confirm everything renders correctly.


Subpixel font rendering takes advantage of the structure in modern lcd monitors to render text sharper than would otherwise be possible. The red and blue outline aliasing in the text looks strange when blown up like this, but when rendered on an lcd, make the text look crisp.

Ping Pong Textures

Text rendering is VERY complicated. To do it properly with good subpixel anti aliasing, you have to take into account the color of the thing you are rendering onto as well as the desired color of the text itself. For graphics apis, this isn't an easy lift because the shader is drawing into the buffer it is potentially reading from.

The solution I eventually landed on was to maintain a two textures of screen textures which get alternately read and written to at the same time as the screen buffer. This way we can reference the most recent state as of the last draw in a shader. This is used today in text rendering, but will eventually power background blurs once I get that working.

I wont bore with the details about what above involved, but it took quite some debugging and fiddling around to arrive at this solution. I'm pretty happy with the approach now though as it means there's a standard way to do post processing style effects for when we need it.

Sub Pixel Text Rendering

With todays work done I have glyphs rendering as subpixel masks into an atlas texture which is then read in the glyph shader to draw individual characters. The glyph shader uses a combination of the current destination pixel color, the desired glyph color, and the mask alpha values to compute the final color.

pub fn glyph_fragment(
    #[spirv(storage_buffer, descriptor_set = 0, binding = 0)] glyphs: &[InstancedGlyph],
    #[spirv(descriptor_set = 0, binding = 1)] atlas: &Image2d,
    #[spirv(descriptor_set = 1, binding = 0)] surface: &Image2d,
    #[spirv(descriptor_set = 1, binding = 1)] sampler: &Sampler,
    #[spirv(push_constant)] constants: &ShaderConstants,
    #[spirv(flat)] instance_index: i32,
    #[spirv(frag_coord)] surface_position: Vec4,
    atlas_position: Vec2,
    out_color_surface: &mut Vec4,
    out_color_texture: &mut Vec4,
) {
    let glyph = glyphs[instance_index as usize];
    // Here we have to sample specifically the 0 LOD. I don't
    // fully understand why, but I think it has to do with how
    // the spirv is generated.
    // More details here:
    let surface_color =
        surface.sample_by_lod(*sampler, surface_position.xy() / constants.surface_size, 0.);
    let mask_color = atlas.sample_by_lod(*sampler, atlas_position, 0.);
    *out_color_texture =
        glyph.color * mask_color + (1.0 - glyph.color.w * mask_color) * surface_color;
    *out_color_surface = *out_color_texture;

This approach is outlined in the webrender docs which go over it in much greater detail. The solution I chose isn't the most performant, but I believe may be as good as I'm going to get with wgpu because it doesn't yet support duel blend modes.

Next up I plan on porting the swash based text shaping so that I can render more than just a single glyph at a time.

Till tomorrow,